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Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Understanding Each Other

Photo by afig-fatah on Unsplash


In a world where there is so much divisiveness and conflict, and where no one seems to want to listen to anyone else’s opinion, it was really a surprise to find a practicing Muslim willing to talk to me and the child I was tutoring.  Mandy (not her real name to protect her privacy) and I were in the public library in a back study room.  We were all alone and very much engaged in the skill of regrouping in subtraction.  A tall, pleasant-looking man entered the room and without any preliminaries asked if we minded if he prayed.

I did not hesitate to give him a positive nod, since I expected that he was a Christian minister, and I always think that I can use any prayer that someone wants to say over me.  However, rather than lifting his hands over my head or bowing his head, he moved over to the wall opposite from where we sat and facing east knelt on the floor placing his head on the carpet.

Mandy’s eyes were like saucers as she stared at his unusual posture, and whispered to me, “Ms. Nunnally, what is he doing?”

“Praying,” I assured her.  “He is a Muslim and his religion requires him to kneel on the ground, face east and pray a number of times a day.  Too bad we all don’t follow those rules.  Every one of us could use more prayer.”

In a short time, with Mandy unable to hide her curiosity, the gentleman stood up and prepared to leave.  Quickly I said to him, “Sir, Mandy is really interested in what you were doing.  Could you take a few minutes and explain?”

He smiled and turning to Mandy said, “I was praying to God.  When you pray, I bet you fold your hands like this,” and he demonstrated the common folded hands in front of his chest.  Then he went on, “Some Christians lift their hands and arms,” and he lifted his arms with palms up. “But we Muslims believe that God is so great and so deserving of our respect that we get right down on the ground and put our heads in the dirt.”  Whereupon he once again knelt on the floor and showed her how he put his head on the ground.

The entire time he was talking, Mandy was totally focused on him.  At least five times, he said that he put in head on the dirt.  She listened and took it all in, never interrupting.  I was impressed with her ability to give him her complete attention, something that she seldom did for me.  At last, he stood up, gave Mandy a quick pat on the head, and left us.

Mandy turned to me and then asked, “Ms. Nunnally, that Muslim man kept saying that he put his head in the dirt.  Didn’t he know that he put his head on the carpet?”

I surely did not know of any way to explain the symbolism to a young child, but then I thought to say, “Mandy, the carpet in here is definitely dirty with so many people walking on it every day.  So, it is probably as close to dirt as you can get inside of a building.”  Satisfied with my answer, she went back to her subtraction problems.

I wish now that I had asked the gentleman’s name.  He was generous with his time and his kindness and gave a little girl and her tutor reason to believe that asking the right questions and really listening to the answers is a step towards making our society a better, more understanding place.


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About the Contributor
Maryann Nunnally
Maryann Nunnally, Contributing Writer
Maryann Nunnally is a retired high school principal and professional comedienne. She writes the regular column Laughing through the Golden Years for Cape Fear Voices.

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